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Predator screenplay writers sue Disney over rights to sci-fi franchsie

Predator screenplay writers Jim and John Thomas sue Disney over rights to lucrative sci-fi franchise

By Paul Chavez For Dailymail.com

Published: 22:03 EDT, 15 April 2021 | Updated: 22:11 EDT, 15 April 2021

The Thomas brothers who wrote the 1987 sci-fi action film Predator filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Disney over their rights to the franchise.

Jim and John Thomas filed their lawsuit in California to confirm their ability to apply the termination provision provided in United States copyright law, according to an article by The Hollywood Reporter.

Predator starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, 73, as Major Alan ‘Dutch‘ Schafer, the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team who encounters a deadly alien while on a mission in Central America. 

Sci-fi classic: The Thomas brothers who wrote the 1987 sci-fi action film Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Disney over their rights to the franchise Sci-fi classic: The Thomas brothers who wrote the 1987 sci-fi action film Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Disney over their rights to the franchise

Sci-fi classic: The Thomas brothers who wrote the 1987 sci-fi action film Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger filed a federal lawsuit Thursday against Disney over their rights to the franchise

The film earned $98.3 million at the box office and spawned a franchise of films, comic books, video games and toys.

The termination provision in the US Copyright Act allows authors to cancel transfers after a waiting period of typically 35 years for newer works.

According to the lawsuit, the effective termination date for the Predator screenplay, originally titled Hunters, is this Saturday, April 17.

The Thomas brothers in their lawsuit claimed they served a termination notice in 2016 to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which was acquired by Disney in 2019, and for four and a half years there was no objection. 

Copyright provision: Jim and John Thomas filed their lawsuit in California to confirm their ability to apply the termination provision provided in United States copyright law, according to an article by The Hollywood Reporter Copyright provision: Jim and John Thomas filed their lawsuit in California to confirm their ability to apply the termination provision provided in United States copyright law, according to an article by The Hollywood Reporter

Copyright provision: Jim and John Thomas filed their lawsuit in California to confirm their ability to apply the termination provision provided in United States copyright law, according to an article by The Hollywood Reporter

Notice filed: The Thomas brothers in their lawsuit claimed they served a termination notice in 2016 to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which was acquired by Disney in 2019, and for four and a half years there was no objection Notice filed: The Thomas brothers in their lawsuit claimed they served a termination notice in 2016 to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which was acquired by Disney in 2019, and for four and a half years there was no objection

Notice filed: The Thomas brothers in their lawsuit claimed they served a termination notice in 2016 to Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, which was acquired by Disney in 2019, and for four and a half years there was no objection

‘Then, in early January 2021, Defendants’ counsel unexpectedly contacted Plaintiffs’ counsel, contesting the Termination Notice as supposedly untimely, based on a theory that the 1986 Grant of the Screenplay underlying their Predator films allegedly qualified for the special, delayed termination time ‘window’ in 17 U.S.C. § 203(a)(3), intended for ‘book publication’ grants,’ the lawsuit said.

The Thomas brothers in response offered alternative notices of termination with later effective termination dates in June 2022 and January 2023.

Disney’s 20th Century Studios division filed its own lawsuit Thursday in response to the Thomas brothers. 

Counter lawsuit: Disney's 20th Century Studios division filed its own lawsuit Thursday in response to the Thomas brothers who wrote Predator, which also starred Carl Weathers Counter lawsuit: Disney's 20th Century Studios division filed its own lawsuit Thursday in response to the Thomas brothers who wrote Predator, which also starred Carl Weathers

Counter lawsuit: Disney’s 20th Century Studios division filed its own lawsuit Thursday in response to the Thomas brothers who wrote Predator, which also starred Carl Weathers

‘While federal statutory copyright law endows certain grantors, like defendants [the Thomas brothers], with copyright termination rights, such rights may only be exercised in accordance with the statute’s requirements, including provisions delineating when termination notices may be served and when the termination of rights becomes effective,’ the 20th Century lawsuit said.

‘Defendants’ notices fail to comply with these statutory requirements and are invalid as a matter of law,’ it added.

Disney’s plans for a reboot of the Predator franchise also were raised in the 20th Century lawsuit.

Reboot plans: Disney's plans for a reboot of the Predator franchise also were raised in the 20th Century lawsuit Reboot plans: Disney's plans for a reboot of the Predator franchise also were raised in the 20th Century lawsuit

Reboot plans: Disney’s plans for a reboot of the Predator franchise also were raised in the 20th Century lawsuit

’20th Century seeks a declaration pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201 that defendants’ notices of termination are invalid. This action is necessary because defendants are improperly attempting to prematurely terminate 20th Century’s rights to the Hunters Screenplay, at the very time that 20th Century is investing substantial time, money, and effort in developing another installment in its successful Predator franchise,’ the complaint said.

Disney’s 20th Century division is being represented by Daniel Petrocelli, 67, a star litigator at Los Angeles-based O’Melveny & Meyers LLP, while Malibu, California-based Marc Toberoff is representing the Thomas brothers.

Petrocelli on behalf of Warner Bros and Toberoff battled about a decade ago over rights to Superman in a case that lasted for years before Warner Bros ultimately prevailed.

Popular film: Predator starred Arnold as Major Alan 'Dutch' Schafer, the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team who encounters a deadly alien while on a mission in Central America Popular film: Predator starred Arnold as Major Alan 'Dutch' Schafer, the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team who encounters a deadly alien while on a mission in Central America

Popular film: Predator starred Arnold as Major Alan ‘Dutch’ Schafer, the leader of an elite paramilitary rescue team who encounters a deadly alien while on a mission in Central America

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